All human beings have a need to feel part of something bigger than them – a sense that they are valued and that they can make a contribution that will be recognised. Employees want to be part of a winning team, want to have a fair, kind and generous boss and want a job that has meaning (for them and for the organisation). When the focus of a boss seemingly rests on others (their opinions, ideas and skills), employees feel that attention is diverted away from them and that they are no longer important in the bigger scheme of things. The prevailing sense of loss and exclusion saps available energy, negatively impacting hope and a sense of belonging.

If you feel side-lined, there are some important considerations that need to be understood before talking to your boss:

  • You may be absolutely wrong about your feelings of being side-lined – the boss may be experiencing pressures that steer him/her towards certain individuals who can assist in realising specific desired results (for example, like someone who knows how to manipulate software to produce specialised reports).
  • Business priorities may have temporarily shifted – the boss’s focus may now be on a project (that doesn’t include you) that needs to come to completion or similar.

Having a sense that you are making a meaningful contribution towards the realisation of the ideals of the company is important for a number of reasons – self-respect, confidence, self-belief, opportunity to give to something bigger than yourself, etc. When you are feeling side-lined, your sense of value diminishes in your eyes. To restore this perception of value, a discussion with your boss is necessary. Prepare the conversation well, attempting to control your emotions as you do so.

  1. Write down why you feel side-lined – what behaviours do you perceive in your boss, the same of which are causing you to feel side-lined? Now write down your feelings generated by observing these behaviours – attempt to be as accurate as possible by using the right voltage words (for example, are you mildly irritated, frustrated, neglected, confused, angry or furious?). Choose one or two words that most accurately represent your emotional state (don’t over-exaggerate your feelings).
  2. Construct the content of your intended conversation with your boss with the use of ‘I messages’ (i.e. speaking about your emotions without becoming emotional). For example, you could say to your boss: “When you spend so much time with the IT section of our department and don’t really relate to me, I feel disheartened, as I feel like I am making a worthwhile contribution as well”. Note that ‘I messages’ have the formula: “When you …, I feel …, because …”
  3. Once fully prepared, approach your boss and explain that your perceptions may be absolutely incorrect; hence you wanting to meet to ensure that the two of you are on the same page. Express your understanding that business priorities may have temporarily shifted. Then, outline how you are feeling, expressing your desire to fully realise the expectations of your boss.

Once any false perceptions have been cleared or clarity is brought to business priorities, attempt to re-establish a communication procedure that will be meaningful to the two of you. Strictly keep to this communication discipline.

For more help on effective relations with your boss, get my book “How do I address my boss when…?” by clicking the book picture on the right.

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